Kenyan tourism minister Najib Balala has predicted the country will see a 10% to 15% increase in US visitors as a result of Barack Obama’s victory in the US presidential election.
Balala said Obama’s image is positive for Kenya. “Kenya has produced a great leader with the prospect of change for a better world,” he said.
Obama’s father was born in Kenya and his recent victory has revived interest in the destination. Kenya was plagued by political riots earlier this year following a dispute over the presidential elections at the end of 2007.
A new political alliance has helped to stabilise the country, leading to a revival in tourists returning to the country.
Balala admitted tourism figures are still down 30% from this time last year but said this is against a backdrop of 2007, which was a record year for Kenya in terms of tourist visitors. He added that the global credit crisis is also having an impact on Kenya’s tourism revival.
Balala said: “As a result of the global credit crunch, there has been a slide back.”
Despite the economic situation, he is positive about the future for the destination as “not only the Obama effect but our strong marketing strategy”. Its future will be helped by currency exchange rates being cut and the cost of fuel falling, he said.
He added: “We want to open new national parks and bring a cultural product to areas such as Lake Victoria.”
The minister is working with UK operators and met 15 of the main operators, including TUI Travel, on Friday.
Kuoni managing director Nick Hughes said consumer confidence in the destination was increasing but agreed the credit crunch was stalling the resurgence of tourism to the country.
Somak Holidays has already introduced five Kenya tours celebrating Barack Obama’s heritage. The tours give clients the opportunity to explore Kogelo in the west of the country.
More WTM 2008 coverage at travelweekly.co.uk/wtm2008
- Watch an interview with Balala and Hughes on our WTM video player